Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) refers to a 1-10 scale to self-report the intensity of an effort.
Our RPE scale is based largely on Matt Fitzgerald's running and swimming RPE scale. We use it because it falls in line with what we consider correct exertion levels for what we're trying to achieve with the workouts.
The RPE scale
Column 1 lists Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) on a 1-10 rating.
Why are lower RPE ratings collapsed into a single row? (e.g. RPE 2 encompasses RPE 1 and RPE 2).
Lower RPE ratings are hardly distinguishable (RPE 1-2, RPE 3-4, RPE 5-6), which is why the lower RPE ratings are collapsed into a single row.
Column 2 lists effort levels relative to each RPE rating (e.g. a Moderate effort should feel like a 7/10 according to your rate of perceived exertion level).
Examples of a run and swim workout using RPE in TrainerRoad's triathlon plans:
A running workout titled, "Run VO2max Intervals", includes the following workout description:
"Run 12min working up to Easy-Moderate, RPE 6 pace to warm up, then this week repeat 18 Hard, RPE 9, 30-second high-speed surges, recovering for only 30 seconds after each; run 10min Easy, RPE 4 to cool down for a total of 40 minutes of running"
This workout begins with an RPE 6 pace, transitions into several RPE 9 efforts, and finishes with what should feel like an RPE 4 cool down period. Referring to the second column in the RPE chart, this translates to beginning the workout at an "Easy-Moderate" pace, transitioning into 18 "Hard" efforts, and cools down with an "Easy" 10 minutes of running.
A swimming workout titled, "Continuous Base Swim (2400m)", includes the following workout description:
"Warm-Up 300m Easy, RPE 4
1800m Easy-Moderate, RPE 6
Cool-Down 300m easy, RPE 4"
This workout warms up with an RPE 4 effort, transitions into an RPE 6 effort, and cools down with an RPE 4 effort. Referring to the RPE chart, the workout begins with an "Easy" pace, moves into an "Easy-Moderate" pace, and concludes with an "Easy" cool down period.
Column 3 lists TrainerRoad's cycling power zones in order for riders to more easily understand how their RPE levels compare to the effort levels of their cycling power zones.
Riders understand what the "Endurance" power zone feels like on the bike. Using the RPE chart, and knowing that "Easy-Moderate" should feel about the same RPE that "Endurance" work feels like on the bike, athletes have a better idea of how their Easy-Moderate pace should feel like during running and swimming workouts.